ivica

Ivica Kostelic ‘motivated’ to boost family’s medal haul

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Ivica Kostelic was greedy. The Croatian skier wanted gold and to tie an Olympic family record in the super combined Friday.

Kostelic, 34, was second to Swiss Sandro Viletta by .34 of a second in slushy snow at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort.

WATCH: Sandro Viletta steals gold in super-combined

He became the second oldest Olympic Alpine medalist, the first Alpine skier to win four Olympic silver medals – the only color he’s known – and the first Winter Olympian to win three straight silver medals in the same event.

Despite all that, he was first asked if he was disappointed with yet another silver.

“This is the question that is often said to me,” he said. “I’m obviously specialized in silver. Everyone likes the winners. The Americans, they say the second one is the first loser. This is not completely true.

“I could be in a hospital. I could be picking garbage in Calcutta or dying of hunger in Africa. Anyone who complains about silver or bronze doesn’t have the right to do so. Gold is the ultimate aim for us, but I’m happy with silver as well.”

In the heat of the moment, Kostelic said he was a bit unhappy when he crossed the finish and saw he was behind Viletta with six more racers to go.

But then Kostelic, as more racers finished behind the both of them, thought about the No. 10.

RELATED: Surprise win by Sandro Viletta in SC

Ten was on his mind before he skied into seventh place in the downhill portion of the event Friday morning, becoming the favorite for gold as the only strong technical skier in the top 15 going into the afternoon slalom.

Ten has been on his mind for a while. Kostelic won his fourth medal Friday. Plenty of Winter Olympians have done that.

But add it to his retired younger sister’s medal total, and you get 10. That tied the record for most career Winter Olympic medals by a brother and sister. They matched retired Italian cross-country skiers Manuela and Giorgio di Centa.

Americans Jack and Shirley Babashoff won 11 swimming medals at the Summer Games.

“I’m very proud to point at a fact that this is the 10th (Winter) Olympic medal for family Kostelic,” he said. “We didn’t talk about that a lot, but people were often questioning what would be special about winning the next medal. The first thing on my mind is this No. 10. A lot of sportsmen have more Olympic medals, but no families.”

Both Janica and their father, Ante, were on hand Friday. Ante was tapped to set the slalom course layout, winning a lottery of national team coaches of highly ranked skiers. This fortunate turn of fate gave Kostelic an advantage.

Janica is the most decorated women’s Alpine skier in Olympic history with four golds and two silvers. She retired due to injuries at age 24 in 2007.

“Janica told me she is super happy,” Kostelic said. “That’s all.”

Kostelic has had a tough season so far, coming off his 11th career surgery and 10th to his right knee in May.

He’s posted one top-10 during the World Cup season after being among the top five in the slalom and super combined standings each of the previous six seasons.

“One of my worst seasons,” said Kostelic, who debuted on the World Cup in 1998. “This is a bright light.”
He will try for Kostelic medal No. 11 in the slalom on Feb. 22. He is the defending silver medalist, and it will likely be his final Olympic event.

He’s greedy. He wants gold.

“I am motivated,” he said. “This medal puts a lot of pressure off of me.”

U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
TODAY
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order